21 November 2017

SUBJECTS: Malcolm Turnbulls latest thought bubble on tax policy; citizenship; Bennelong.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: Well this Prime Minister who makes it up as he goes along has hit a new low. Yesterday in a pathetic and desperate attempt to distract attention from this banana republic move to stop the Parliament sitting because Malcolm Turnbull was too nervous about the result, that the Prime Minister in a speech last night issued the latest thought bubble on tax policy.

He said he is working to reduce personal income tax. Well, the Prime Minister needs reminding, he has legislation before the House, legislation which might have been debated next week if the Parliament was sitting, to actually increase the personal income tax paid by every Australian. Legislation opposed by the Labor Party.

The Medicare levy increase is a fancy word for increasing tax. The Medicare levy increase is just a fancy way of saying that Malcolm Turnbull wants to put up personal income tax. When he says he wants to reduce personal income tax, he has no credibility. The Medicare levy increase would see somebody on $55,000 a year paying $275 more a year in tax.

Somebody on $80,000 paying some $400 more a year on tax. The Medicare levy increase takes back every dollar that was given in tax cuts to some last year, but it applies to every single Australian earning more than $21,000.

So if Malcolm Turnbull wants to talk about cutting personal income tax, the first step he should take today is to drop his legislation to increase income tax to start with. That's like television's most famous used Carsales man, Arthur Daley, going around putting up prices one day and putting sale prices on the next and saying people are better off. Australian people see through this. Malcolm Turnbull, this Prime Minister who out at Penrith, announced that he was going to give the states increase power to increase income tax which lasted a day, is now saying he is the man who can cut income tax. He just has no credibility.

Of course, we see this pathetic undemocratic attempt to subvert Parliament sitting in Australia in 2017. I'm sure there are Prime Ministers in the past who would have preferred at particular times that Parliament not be sitting. I'm sure Julia Gillard and other Prime Ministers at particularly difficult times thought it might have been easier if Parliament was not sitting, but they fronted up, they dealt with democracy , they faced the Parliament. Malcolm Turnbull doesn't have the courage or judgment to do so. It is a disgrace. The Labor Party will just get on with the job. The Labor Party will get on with the job of developing and announcing the policies that are important for Government, as Malcolm Turnbull flails from crisis to crisis. At every single point, at every single juncture, his judgement has made the citizenship crisis worse, not better. At every single point that he has contributed to the citizenship debate, he has worsened the political and constitutional crisis, not solved it.

And yet again we see that with the delay at Parliament, with this attempt, whether it's to not face a meeting of the Liberal Party because he is worried about what might happen in there, not face Parliament because he is worried about what might happen on the floor of Parliament, or not face the citizenship disclosure issues, he is running and hiding, and it is nothing short of a disgrace.

Happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, is Labor planning to hand back the benefits of the bracket creep before the next election?

BOWEN: We have more tax and economic policy out for all public consumption and debate than any Opposition in living memory already. Whether it's negative gearing reform, capital gains tax reform, family trust reform, managing family tax affairs reform - all of these things are out there. Now, we will have more to say, but the first point is we are opposing the personal income tax rise that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are putting to the Australian people. We are standing against it, trying to stop it. That's the debate at the moment. Malcolm Turnbull doesn't want personal income tax to rise. Well, he can drop his legislation.

JOURNALIST: What else can voters expect under Labor in terms of relief around cost of living?

BOWEN: As I said, we have a lot of policy out there, we have more to say, but we have stopped the Liberal Party cutting pensions. We are attempting to stop the Liberal Party putting up taxes on people earning as little at $21,000 a year. The Parliamentary Budget Office has made it clear that the tax burden on working Australians is going to increase, for all working Australians, but mostly for those in the middle quintile, those on about $46,000 a year.

They are the people taking the brunt under this Government. Our first responsibility is to stop this Government increasing those people's tax, and that's what we've been doing and we will continue to be fighting that. Now, let's not get ahead of ourselves, Malcolm Turnbull had a thought bubble last night and a desperate, "Look over here attempt. Here is a shiny thing. Please don't notice that my Government is falling apart before your eyes. Please don't notice that I'm the first Prime Minister in living memory to say I'm not turning up for work at Parliament because it's all too hard. It's all getting too difficult. Im going to go somewhere else, not Canberra. Pretend its not happening, pretend we don't have a House of Representatives." That's his strategy. Its all too hard Ill just pretend its not happening. Well, real leadership is not about that.

JOURNALIST: Does low wages growth underlines the case for tax relief?

BOWEN: Well I think low wages growth underlines the fact that Australians are feeling the pressure.

And can't afford the Medicare levy increase, the personal income tax increase that Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison want to impose on them.

What we say is, well we understand that sometimes the Medicare levy increase needs to be considered and we're understood that governments in the past have had to do that, but here we face a situation of record low wages growth, wages going backwards for those who work on the weekend, those who commit the crime of daring to work on a Sunday are having their wages cut under this Government. Then they say you will pay more tax as a bonus! Well thank you very much for your cost-of-living contribution, Mr Turnbull. I mean, this guy is fundamentally out of touch.

JOURNALIST: Have you seen the internal polling in terms of the Bennelong by-election (inaudible)?

BOWEN: We are fighting hard. Kristina is the underdog. John Alexander is the current sitting MP, but Kristina is fighting hard, we are all fighting hard. The entire shadow ministry will I have no doubt, be through Bennelong at some stage. Bill has made a personal commitment.

I saw Malcolm Turnbull out this morning not far from Bennelong, but he didn't show his head in Bennelong. He was across the river. He didn't actually make it to Bennelong. I wonder why that is.

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, what do you estimate the value of bracket creep has been over the past few years?

BOWEN: Well, there is no doubt that a substantial part of the return to Budget balance is built on an increase of personal income tax revenue under the Government. That's the way it is.

Now, they talk the talk about doing something about that, but they don't walk the walk.

The one personal income tax cut that has before delivered, with bipartisan support, has been taken back, or attempted to be taken back with the personal income tax rise which is the Medicare levy.

They are making the situation worse, not better.

JOURNALIST: Has Labor costed it?

BOWEN: We look at all options all the time and one thing is very clear: We've shown that we have more than willing to have all our economic and tax policies out there in plenty of time before an election for people to look at, but I tell you this, it won't be a throw-away line in the speech. We won't be making it up as we go along, Oh, dear, woo he have got a big political problem here. People are worried that we are not doing it in the Parliament so I will have a thought bubble.

Where is the Governments analysis? Have they done one jot of evidence that theyve done any serious work about a personal income tax cut?

Did the Treasurer even know that the Prime Minister was going to say this yesterday?

I haven't seen the Treasurer out this morning backing in the announcement. Did he even know?

Remember, this is the Prime Minister that changed the Budget date and didn't tell the Treasurer. Maybe he announced a personal income tax cut, alleged, and didn't tell the Treasurer.

JOURNALIST: (Inaudible)

BOWEN: As you've seen, the crossbench is rightly outraged, we are rightly outraged. We will talk to the crossbench. We have been talking to the crossbench about the right way of approaching it. We don't want to put the taxpayer to unnecessary expense, but we are ready for work on Monday. I mean, the parliamentary sitting program was announced last October. All MPs put it in their diary.

Our job is to be in Parliament on Monday, to be ready to, would. That's our responsibility. Now, LNP members, Government members, might be taking a rostered week off, but we are ready to work.

Now, whether there is a decision to actually hold a Caucus meeting, we will leave it to the Shadow Cabinet, a few more discussions to be had.

JOURNALIST: In light of citizenship issues, are you confident Labor wont have any (inaudible)?

BOWEN: Absolutely. We have nothing to hide. We are happy to disclose. Not one member has been referred to the High Court. All our members, we have very strong on, very clear advice in relation to all our members and we have more than happy to disclose.

Remember, the Government didn't want to disclose for weeks. We dragged them kicking and screaming to disclose on 1st December.

Now they've cancelled Parliament for 1st December, but we have nothing to hide and this has shown that the Liberal and National Party processes have been, to use words, as I recall them, unforgivably sloppy. That's what he said about the Greens, before his own house came under questioning.

JOURNALIST: Back to the tax issues, if the Government is targeting at the lower and middle-income tax bracket, isn't that the same group that Labor is doing by exempting them from the Medicare levy increase?

BOWEN: Yeah, but we've had one throw-away line in a speech. That's not a policy. That's a thought bubble. It is making it up as you go.

Just as giving states income tax powers is making it up as you go.

If there is a concrete policy, if Malcolm Turnbull has a tax cut to deliver, show us who, show us the numbers and then we can have a discussion and we can ask, "Well, what do the Labor Party think about that? "

At the moment we have a puff of smoke in a speech - that's not a policy.

As I said, far more detailed Labor policy out there, more than the government policy, that's unusual. I could talk to you about Labor's policies on income tax, education funding, the whole lot.

You can ask Malcolm Turnbull and he has a line in the a vibe of a tax cut, that's what he has got. That's not a policy. He can go to the next election with a vibe, if he wants. We'll go with policies.


Thanks very much. Cheers.